Cozumel – The Other Side of the Island

Explore the Wild Side of Cozumel

Mention Cozumel and immediately someone says something like, “Oh, yeah, don’t miss Carlos and Charlie’s tequila party.”  But Cozumel is so much more than hanging in downtown San Miguel or climbing an “iceberg” water float at Mr. Sancho’s. Or even more than sipping Coronas on a catamaran.

Cozumel Mexico map

Where you’ll dock in Cozumel
Your ship will dock at one of three ports: Punta Langosta Pier (the downtown pier), you can walk to downtown San Miguel ; International Pier is further south (about 5 miles) and almost walkable into town; last is Puerta Maya Pier and requires a taxi to and from downtown San Miguel.

Getting to the “Other Side” of Cozumel.
The easiest way to independently see what’s hiding on the eastern side of Cozumel is to hire a taxi at the port. Negotiate the price before you get in if you want your driver to take you on a bar-hop or beach experience. I paid $50 to visit four beach bars in an afternoon. Of course you can rent a jeep, too.

Simply turn right from any port; you’ll be going south on the one and only main road that circles half of the island.

Paradise Cafe Bob Marley Bars Cozumel Paradise Café – Bob Marley Bars
This is the first stop on your “Other Side” tour. Paradise Café is located on the southeast tip of Cozumel and looks a bit more like a roadside stand in Jamaica than Cozumel. But don’t let that fool you. The food is good, the atmosphere is laid-back (as are all beach bar/restaurants in Cozumel) and the drinks are cold. The entrance to Punta Sur National Park is just a few hundred feet away.

Chen Rio on Playa Bonita Beach Cozumel Mexico on the east side of the island Chen Rio
Easy access from the road, Chen Rio’s is easy, breezy and has a swim-able beach due to the protective cove location. Maybe a little bit more expensive than the previous two places to eat, but worth it especially if you want to wade in the water or relax after eating. Ample portions make the prices seem quite reasonable, however.

Coconuts Bar and Restaurant Cozumel Mexico Coconuts
Continue north and slightly hidden from the road is Coconuts. Perched high on a cliff, there is a long flight of rocky steps to climb to get to the entrance. Once at the top, you are rewarded with a most spectacular view of the rugged coastline. Tables surround the colorful bar and are usually plentiful. It’s the view that’s the draw, as well as the nachos and ice cold beer. The main dishes are pretty good, too. There’s even a small walking path with even more exceptional views, just exercise caution when walking around. Not only is it a long way down, but the rocky path is unforgiving should your leg brush up against the rough edges.

Punta Morena Restaurant and Bar in Cozumel Mexico

Before Hurricane Wilma

Punta Morena Punta Morena today. Photo credit: Punta Morena Facebook page.

Punta Morena
Combine the beach clubs on the west side with the east side ambiance over here and you have a sort of Punta Morena beach club. With a large, segmented swimming pool, bar and semi-enclosed restaurant, it’s a bit like coming back to civilization, if that’s what appeals to you. Again, as in all of the other places mentioned, you can’t go wrong ordering snacks, lunch or drinks. There are a few well-placed shaded hammocks to relax in after lunch.

Mezcalitos Restaurant and Bar in Cozumel

Photo credit: Mezcalitos

Last stop going north along the highway before the road bends westward to downtown is Mezcalitos. Since 1979 and family-owned, Mezcalitos is kind of a landmark, end of the road beach bar and restaurant. Known for their delicious shrimp dishes and super-size Margaritas. Add in some beach volleyball and you’ll definitely make new friends here.

Time to head back to your ship. Once you are back on the main highway, the Transversal Road, it’s a quick 10 minute drive back to San Miguel.

Do one or do all of the beaches on the “Other Side” of Cozumel; a good time is had no matter where you choose.

READ MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION: More Best Things to Do in Cozumel in One Day

Important Advice
Keep an eye on the clock and allow extra time to return back to your ship. Especially if you are docked at Puerta Maya Pier.

The “Other Side” is the ocean side of Cozumel and there can be some pretty rough surf accompanied by rip currents and strong undertows. If uncertain, check the beach flags and if you see green, that’s the go ahead that it’s safe. Always use caution – there usually isn’t a lifeguard.

Bring sunscreen! The clean air, bright white sand and glaring sun all add up to a pretty nasty sunburn if you’re not careful.

Last, take plenty of photos. The scenery is beautiful and you’ll want to tell all your friends back home about your amazing day in Cozumel. Or maybe you won’t…just to help keep this pristine and secluded shoreline from becoming overrun with tourists…for now.

Photo credit: Sherry Laskin – all except the map (Wikipedia); Mezcalitos and Punta Morena’s new photo.

N.B. My photos were taken in a time span from 2004 – 2010. A popular travel website that linked to my article received several mean-spirited comments due to the fact that my photo of Punta Morena was outdated. Others readers commented that it was nice to see how it used to look prior to 2005 Hurricane Wilma. I apologize if I offended anyone by using an “outdated” photo of which I was unaware.

My objective was to point out and create an awareness for the spectacular “other” side of Cozumel which many cruise passengers may never see if they only purchase cruise lines’ shore excursions.

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  1. Hi Christina,
    Thank you for reading my Cozumel article. Yes, it’s definitely an option to ask the taxi driver to wait but it would depend on how long you plan to spend on the “other side”. I’ve never had a problem getting a taxi for the return from say, Coconuts for example. But you must allow enough time in case there’s a delay in a taxi getting to where you are for the day. Sometimes the restaurant/bar can call a taxi, too. Negotiate with your taxi driver on the way over and you could try to agree on a pick-up time for your return. That frees the taxi driver from picking up more passengers rather than charging you a higher price for just waiting around.

    I hope this is helpful. Enjoy your time in Cozumel! It’s a wonderful place to spend a day (or longer!).

  2. I want to go to the East Side of the island and hang out for the day. I know we can get a taxi to take us over, but how hard is it to get transportation back to the terminal/port? Most people suggest just paying the driver to wait but that sounds pretty expensive.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation, Joe. I will definitely go there on my next visit. And thanks for taking the time to read the article and leave a helpful comment.

  4. Thanks very much, Wilma! Your suggestion is appreciated. Thanks for reading the article, too.

  5. Robert, Unless otherwise indicated and photo credit given, all photos are my own. I wrote the article following my visit. The map was on Wikipedia and is used on many travel sites. I’m sorry that you feel that I copied from your website.

  6. Aside from using my map, copy, and photos without my permission; I guess everything else is fine. LOL

  7. Hi Keisha, thank you for taking the time to read my article AND leave such a terrific comment. I totally agree with you about not swimming on the east side of the island. It’s really more for just taking a leisurely beach walk, photos. There are a couple of places that you could get into the water, but mainly it’s scenic and good food/beverages and away from the crowd. I love your suggestion about bringing supplies for the animal shelter! I will definitely do that on my next trip. Your comment is so upbeat and informative! Thank you again…I really appreciate it. Happy travels!

  8. I have visited the “other side” everytime I’m in Cozumel and many places change from one hurricane season to another. In fact the restaurant my family and I love and eat at everytime we are there you never know if the beach will be 30′ from the water or if the water will be a mere 5′ feet away. So we are always surprised at what we will find. I suggest to most people to not swim in the area even if the green flags are up. Depending on where you are alot of the area has limestone and not only should you always wear water shoes but you should be particularly careful because the surf could be very calm and then change to choppy and you will be severely injured if you are washed up on limestone. I always suggest people only swim at or very near the resort areas. Alot of people think they have to pay a resort fee just to swim but if you don’t use any of their facilities it’s completely free to swim there and much safer. On our first cruise visit we rented a dune buggy and got lost. Ended up at the landfill and let me tell you once we actually got to the heart of it we were shocked. There were wild dogs living there and there were dogs everywhere. Also the biggest buzzards I have ever seen in my life. They were larger than the dogs. About the same size as a five year old. It was shocking. We also go there everytime we bring someone with us to show them. Lastly if you are the giving type there is an animal shelter there that always needs donations, supplies and volunteers. We usually load up a couple of large suitcases of supplies and bring them over and help out for a couple of hours. They would appreciate anything you are able to give. Above all enjoy your time in Cozumel and on your cruise.

  9. Cozumel is a divers paradise…something not mentioned. The cruise ships are a giant eyesore and environmental catastrophe! But it does bring in $$. The old men hand their wives the credit cards, then they hop in one of the multiple awaiting taxi cabs to take them to the brothels which do the majority of their business in the daytime when the cruise ships are in. Yucky but true

  10. Hi Connie, thanks for taking the time to read this post. Coconuts’ entrance is slightly off the road so you have to look for it or just ask the taxi driver. I can’t wait to go back!


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